Growth of loans to the private sector in the euro area picked up fractionally in January, European Central Bank data showed today. 

The statistics are a key indicator of economic health of the single currency area for the ECB, as borrowing is a main financing source for corporate investment which in turn should boost the euro zone's currently weak economy. 

In January, approved loans rose 0.8% from a year ago, fractionally faster than growth of 0.7% in December, an ECB statement said. 

When certain strictly financial transactions are stripped out from the loans data, the trend remained the same - with credit accorded to households and companies up 0.6% in January, compared with 0.4% in December. 

The ECB has launched a raft of policy measures to get credit flowing, most significantly a massive programme to buy more than €1 trillion worth of public sector bonds to pump liquidity into the system. 

The ECB already extended that programme by a further six months in a bid to drive euro zone inflation higher. 

But ECB chief Mario Draghi has hinted that more stimulus measures could be on the cards in March if euro zone inflation does not pick up soon. 

Growth in the overall money supply, known as M3, accelerated to 5% in January from 4.7% in December, the ECB also said today. 

The ECB regards M3 money supply as a barometer for future inflation.